Festive decorations, joyful music, delicious food and opportunities for merriment with those we care about most, are just a few things that top the list.
The holiday season brings with it a dark side. The rush to get from one place to another, dismay because of gift giving expectations, or unresolved tensions with family members are common stressors for many. The irony is that oftentimes the very things we are trying to enjoy are also the source of our greatest stress.
For those struggling to find peace and joy this holiday season, it would be prudent to keep reading and learn more about how a Danish concept called hygge can help reorient you to the wonder of the holiday season.
What is Hygge?
Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish term that does not have a direct translation, but roughly translated could be summarized as “conscious coziness”. It's a feeling of contentment and comfort, coziness and connection.
There are a number of aspects that characterize hygge. It includes an atmosphere created by warm lights, pleasure and gratitude in the indulgences of a good meal or decadent dessert, comfort in the intentional interactions and human connections that we have.
Hygge is something that you cannot force, nor is it something that can be purchased. It is a feeling of contentment brought about by the small pleasures of life. The various elements of hygge are not hygge in and of themselves, rather, they are what create the atmosphere that leads to hygge.
Interestingly enough, relationships are also not, in and of themselves, the purpose of hygge. Like the other components, relationships are a contributing factor to hygge.
In his bookThe Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, author and researcher Meik Wiking says, “Time spent with others creates an atmosphere that is warm, relaxed, friendly, down-to-earth, close, comfortable, snug and welcoming. In many ways, it is like a good hug, but without the physical contact. It is in this situation that you can be completely relaxed and yourself.”
It is this sort of atmosphere that allows you to let down your guard and become vulnerable with others. It is the time spent with others, the recounting of old memories, and the creation of new ones, that contributes to a comfortable contentment. This causes a forging of a stronger bond with those you are most likely to be yourself around.
There is quite a bit of evidence that connects the quality of our relationships to the quality of our health. In other words, the healthier our relationships, the healthier we tend to be overall. (1, 2, 3) Our health consists of more than just our biological function. It includes our emotional and mental well-being, which is largely shaped by living relationally.
Hygge can be a helpful way of managing stressful or difficult relationships and equip you to develop more meaningful connections that lead to better health.
How to Implement Hygge into Your Everyday
The great thing about hygge is that it doesn’t cost anything. Nor does it require you to throw away things that don’t bring joy or serve a utilitarian purpose. All it requires is for you to slow down, live intentionally and create an environment that allows you to enjoy the moment.
Here are a few tips on how you can implement hygge into your everyday living:
Establish your environment - Tidy up. Find a space that can be a refuge like a nook by a window or next to a fireplace. Use warm lights to create a calming atmosphere. Find a cozy chair that you can curl up in with a good book and a warm drink. Implement some cottagecore by decorating your interior space with elements found in nature. Be sure to include your workplace. Afterall, you spend a large portion of your day at work, so make sure it is in an environment that gives you a sense of peace and tranquility.
Indulge, but in a controlled manner - Restriction does not establish a healthy relationship with food. Rather, learning to enjoy the decadent in moderation, allows you to find pleasure in what you consume. Use the abundance of treats as an opportunity to slow down and savor every bite. The same can be done with other indulgences like Christmas music or Hallmark movies. Perhaps, it might involve simply laying on the couch with your eyes closed while you listen to Bing Crosby’sChristmas Classics spin on the record player.
Practice being present - Don’t feel like you need to rush a moment. Oftentimes, our impatience is a result of our unmet expectations or because we are being inconvenienced. When you are with loved ones, don’t feel like you always have to say something. Sit there, watch your loved ones interact with one another, and take in the moment. Turn off your cell phone or put it in another room. Be present.
Express your gratitude - Tell others the things you appreciate about them. As you take in each moment, find the things to be thankful about in that moment. We are finite creatures and tomorrow is not promised. This may be as good as it gets, so find the joy in each moment and tell someone.
Be intentional in your relationships - Find opportunities to build relationships and create memories together. This might include old traditions that have been passed down for generations, or it could be starting a new one. Go on adventures. Spend time with others outdoors. Go for a drive to see Christmas lights or play in the snow together. You will soon forget the troubles of the world, but you will long remember the moments you spent with those you love most.
If you are struggling to find joy and delight this holiday season, reorient your mind to find the good in everything, and then be thankful. As you learn to find the cozy contentment that each moment provides, you will discover that contentment leads to increased joy and delight.
In J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic bookThe Hobbit, the leader of the Company of Dwarves leads his band of brothers on an expedition to reclaim his peoples’ treasure from the dragon, Smaug. At the end of the tale, after going through the strife of the saga, Thorin says, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
In the end, Thorin discovered that the thing that he strove for most, paled in comparison to what he already had.
May you discover that the joy and wonder of this holiday season is already present all around you.